The citizens’ media industry

The citizens’ media industry
: I’ll give you just this one fact from the Foursquare conference: I asked Jonathan Miller, the head of AOL, how much of his audience’s time is spent with audience-generated content.

He replied: 60-70 percent.

Think about that: Two-thirds of the time, the audience is looking at the audience’s own content, not the pro’s.

There’s an industry there, an industry that has barely been born.

Imagine if two-thirds of our time and channels on TV were spent looking at stuff created by fellow viewers. Or two-thirds of the books on Borders’ shelves. Or two-thirds of the pages of the newspaper. Or two-thirds of the magazines on the racks. Or two-thirds of the music on our shelves or Ipods.

Imagine if two-thirds — or one third or, hell, one percent — of the resources and advertising now devoted to media came to citizens’ media (which is what I’ll call audience content because the words “audience” and “content” are both loaded in some circles).

Citizens’ media is hugely powerful because citizens create it and citizens like it. But it is not getting the attention it deserves.

: As the panels gabbed on, I sat down and made notes on the elements of a citizens’ media industry. Not all of this can or should come from one company. Some will come from AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo, and known players; some will come from newcomers; some will come from you or me. But all of this is business waiting to be grabbed:

> Tools to create content. This means weblog tools and video and audio tools. It means mobile tools, too. And it means tools for individuals and groups.

> Tools to manage and share content. We need the means to store and serve our stuff, to file it away and find it again.

> The means to find the stuff we want to find: searches, directories, links, categorization, recommendations, reviews. If you can’t find the content, it’s not content yet.

> The means to find and make stars. All citizens’ media will not be created equal. Stars will emerge. Stars will move to other media. This will also validate citizens’ media. It’s a two-sided coin: The creators will need agents and marketers to discover them and package them and sell them; the audience of audiences will need help to find the best: It’s the atomic American Idol.

> The capture of buzz. The unique value of citizens’ media is that it captures what the citizens — the audience, the marketplace, the electorate, depending on your vantage — are thinking and saying. That needs to be grabbed and measured, a la Technorati.

> Interactivity. This is first and foremost a social enterprise. People want to talk and share. That is much of the content of the people’s content.

> Targeting. What will make all this pay, economically, is that all this allows marketers who are allowed in to target messages to willing and receptive audiences; that will be the key and killer strength of citizens’ media over the pro’s.

What you end up with is content the people create and the people care about. And the people aren’t just people; they are influencers, marketers (who better to convince you to buy a new cell phone than a user of that cell phone), critics, creators. We are people who matter.

There’s a business in this, a big business, and so far — apart from the odd toolmaker — nobody paying sufficient attention to it.

Opportunity knocks.